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Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023 Passed By Indian Parliament: List Benefits for Fishermen

The Parliament of India has given a green signal to Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Vivek Singh
Man fishing with net (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)
Man fishing with net (Photo Courtesy: Freepik)

The Indian Parliament has approved the Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023. The government's goal is to confirm that coastal aquaculture and its related activities are allowed within the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) defined by CRZ notifications. The amendment ensures that registrations granted under the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act will now serve as valid permissions under the CRZ Notification. This change is aimed at helping small-scale aquaculture farmers by removing the need for CRZ clearances from various agencies. Additionally, the amendment includes a specific provision allowing the establishment of aquaculture facilities like hatcheries and breeding centers within the No Development Zone (NDZ) located 200 meters from the High Tide Line (HTL) of the CRZ.

The current law allows for a prison sentence of up to 3 years for unregistered coastal aquaculture, which is considered too harsh for a civil matter. An amendment bill aims to replace this with more suitable civil penalties like fines, aligning with the principle of reducing criminal punishment for civil offences. The amendment also broadens the definition of "coastal aquaculture" to cover all related activities under the law. This clarifies confusion between different aspects of coastal aquaculture and aims to prevent environmentally harmful practices.

Evolvement of Coastal Aquaculture

Coastal aquaculture has evolved beyond just shrimp farming to include eco-friendly activities like cage culture, seaweed culture, etc. These activities can bring revenue and employment opportunities, particularly for coastal communities and women. The amendment seeks to include these activities within the scope of the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act to promote and regulate them effectively.

The government aims to enhance the ease of doing business in coastal aquaculture by refining operational procedures through amendments to the Coastal Aquaculture Authority. The amendments include changes to the registration certificate process for ownership or activity size changes, reissuing certificates in cases of damage or loss, and allowing for delayed renewal with a compounded fee.

Ambiguous administrative matters involving the authority's Member Secretary and functioning in the Chairperson's absence are clarified for better efficiency and accountability under the Amended Act. The amendments grant explicit authority for the Coastal Aquaculture Authority to establish committees comprising experts, stakeholders, and public representatives to effectively carry out its responsibilities.

Facilities for Fishermen

To ensure successful coastal aquaculture, disease prevention is crucial. The government plans to establish facilities like hatcheries, broodstock multiplication centres, and nucleus breeding centres to produce genetically improved and disease-free stocks.

These facilities can only be set up in areas with direct seawater access, and provisions will be made in the Act to discourage the use of antibiotics and pharmacologically active substances in coastal aquaculture.

The government plans to incorporate international best practices like aquaculture area mapping, adopting Good Aquaculture Practices, ensuring product quality and safety, and streamlining business processes while maintaining environmental protection principles through appropriate provisions in the Act. These measures aim to boost sustainable production, traceability, competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and exports in coastal aquaculture. This, in turn, will lead to consistent income and employment growth in rural coastal areas.

The Amendment Bill includes new provisions to empower the Coastal Aquaculture Authority in better regulate coastal aquaculture-related activities for environmental compliance. These provisions entail setting standards for effluent emission from aquaculture units, holding owners accountable for demolition and environmental damage costs based on the Polluter Pays Principle, and prohibiting aquaculture in ecologically sensitive areas. Due to advancements in technology and cultural practices, the pollution potential of shrimp farming has notably decreased. The sector is now ready for a significant advancement by diversifying species and expanding into new areas, facilitated by the policy flexibility provided by the amendments to the Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act of 2005.

How Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023 Will Be Helpful?

The Lok Sabha has recently taken a notable stride in advancing aquaculture and enhancing the business environment by approving a modified bill. This bill, directed at legalizing specific actions associated with coastal aquaculture, incorporates a range of crucial clauses.

Decriminalizing Aquaculture Activities

The modified bill's primary emphasis is on eliminating the criminal nature of violations linked to activities in coastal aquaculture. This action is projected to offer solace to individuals involved in aquaculture endeavours and enhance the business-friendly atmosphere within this field.

The bill suggests substituting potential prison sentences of a maximum of three years with a fine of Rs 1 lakh for specific transgressions connected to coastal aquaculture. This shift in penalties is designed to create a more favourable regulatory landscape for the smooth functioning of aquaculture activities.

Surge in Shrimp Output and Elimination of Minor Offense Imprisonment

Between the fiscal years 2013-14 and 2022-23, there has been a notable upswing in shrimp production, escalating from 322,000 tonnes to a remarkable 1,184,000 tonnes. This substantial increase underscores the expansion possibilities within the aquaculture industry.

Matsya Sampada Yojana: Elevating the Fishing Industry

Matsya Sampada Yojana constitutes part of the government's endeavors to uplift the fishing sector. This plan involves a substantial investment of Rs 20,050 crore. Its goal is to modernize and enhance the productivity of the fishing industry, aligning seamlessly with the bill's intention of fostering aquaculture.

Encouraging Progressive Aquaculture Methods

A key element of the legislation focuses on endorsing novel and more ecologically sound approaches to aquaculture. Specifically, the bill promotes methods like cage farming and cultivating seaweed. These inventive techniques not only add variety to aquaculture methodologies but also contribute to the overall sustainability of the sector.

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